Two interesting updates crossed my desk this week. I noticed them because they seem to signal that Washington is at last acknowledging the workforce shortage among addiction treatment providers. While many stakeholders instinctively know the country is in dire need of more clinicians, I haven’t sensed much earnestness from lawmakers to address the issue.
But now I see these two timely glimmers of hope.
First, the Department of Labor (DOL) has announced $21 million in grants earmarked to support training for individuals who want to transition into workforce roles in addiction treatment services. The good news is that this is real money that could be applied to new workers or incumbent workers who need to advance their skills to take on new responsibilities.
By the way, grants can also help families affected by drug addiction learn new skills that lead to employment. This is also good. Maybe some of these folks will be inspired to become clinicians.
And believe it or not, the funding has been directed toward the department’s Employment and Training Administration courtesy of the national public health emergency declared last October.
So many of us skeptics have been thinking all along that the public health emergency wasn’t translating into action, but DOL is making a solid effort here. Hopefully qualifying applicants in your community will jump on this immediately.
The second update to note is that among the 25 or more bills Congress is considering this week is HR 5102, the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act of 2018, authored by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). It will create a student loan repayment program for full-time addiction treatment professionals in amounts up to $250,000 each. Workers must agree to work in areas determined to be most in need of services and must enter into an agreement of service of up to six years. The program will be available to a wide range of workers, including physicians, registered nurses, social workers, recovery coaches and other behavioral health professionals.
It’s a bipartisan bill with eight cosponsors so far. If passed, HR 5102 could make a difference in a relatively short amount of time.
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